Project based learning at Dakota Memorial School

Submitted photo Chicks were hatched as part of a project-based learning assignment for students at Dakota Memorial School.

My classroom is a barnyard … literally. There is hay, pine chips, heat lamps, chickens, our version of a barn & of course chicken poop.

My name is Cher Baggett, I work for Minot Public School, and I teach Title I at Dakota Memorial School located on the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Campus in Minot. I have been tasked with teaching reading intervention and math intervention to students in grades 4-8. Having said that, my students’ current lesson has attracted the attention of not only the entire school, but also the entire DBGR organization including Minot, Bismarck and Fargo. I have had a plethora of tours and visitors in my classroom over the last couple weeks.

Hatching chicks is an example of project-based learning. Project-based learning is an engaging and complex task in which students actively explore and acquire deeper knowledge by doing something. For example, even though hatching chicks may seem like a science project, we have calculated the hatch rate (math), discussed who raises chicken, where they are raised, and various poultry related jobs (social studies), written two newsletters, haikus and cinquains (English), researched (reading) and are compiling a book of all information gained, for each student to take with them.

The students have run the show from the beginning. The eggs begin in the incubators and they watched them develop for 21 days. They were aware that the temperature and humidity were critical, so they were in constant observation. The students documented the growth of the embryo for the entire twenty-one days, we took pictures of what they actually saw when they looked through the ova scope at the egg during development, and researched like crazy.

Once day 20 arrived, the search for pips in the eggs began, and everything they had previously learned came to fruition. Keep in mind, they are writing about everything they see, hear, feel, discover and more. The students have also been “Barnyard Helpers.” Each student has had the opportunity to help maintain the brooder (including water, food, temperature and cleaning out the “living quarters”). Finally, my students are putting together books that include everything I have mentioned including their own personal journals of the events and the articles each of them have written for our “Barnyard Banter” newsletter! Learning can be and should be fun!

The most beautiful thing about the chicks being in our classroom is many of the students have faced trauma in their young lives. Things most of us as adults could never imagine. The moments the students share with the baby chicks is precious. It is pure, simple and tender. Most of them would never have this opportunity to watch life begin and grow. They absolutely adore the chicks, and my greatest task is how to get them moving onto work from holding and loving the baby chicks!

Cher Baggett is a Title I teacher at Dakota Memorial School at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.